Yesterday's September UK Services PMI report saw the closely-watched gauge of services sector activity drop to 49.5, its lowest level since March. This disappointed expectations of the measure staying above the key 50-mark, which distinguishes an expanding economy from contracting one. As a result, all three UK PMIs are now below 50.
This is has not been seen since the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result in July 2016.
Ahead of today’s US payrolls report and Fed Chair Powell’s speech, market risk sentiment remains cautious. This follows another weak round of survey data with yesterday’s services PMI/ISM readings across Europe and the US raising further concerns over the health of the global economy. With Chinese markets closed for holiday, Asian equity markets are mixed overnight but most major indices are set to end the week lower.
A string of weak US economic data this week is raising fears that the hitherto resilient US economy may be showing signs of cracking. The ISM manufacturing survey earlier this week dropped to 47.8, the weakest since the global financial crisis. Yesterday’s ISM non-manufacturing survey also missed forecasts, falling sharply to 52.6 from 56.4. Against this background, today’s official US nonfarm payrolls data for September will be another crucial piece of evidence. Strong jobs growth has, after all, underpinned consumer spending and the overall economy in recent quarters. For sure, the monthly payrolls series can be volatile, but the ‘unofficial’ ADP numbers released earlier in the week point to a softening trend of employment growth. Our central forecast for today’s headline figure is a rise of 170k, which is near the top of the range of economists’ forecasts. The consensus forecast is 145k. We also expect the unemployment rate to remain at 3.7%, but see a marginal rise in wage growth to 3.3% from 3.2%. Fed Chairman Powell’s opening remarks this evening at 19:00BST (after the payrolls figures) may be worth waiting for. Also attending the event will be Board Governors Brainard and Quarles. Rosengren (voter) and Bostic (non-voter) also appear in separate events earlier in the day.
The US dollar has been under pressure in recent sessions, as Treasury yields tumble in response to weak economic data. To state the obvious, today’s nonfarm payrolls could be pivotal for the greenback and broader market sentiment. The pound briefly rose above $1.24, also supported by a lukewarm response (i.e. not complete rejection) by the EU on the government’s new Brexit proposals and possibly more conciliatory exchanges in the House of Commons.
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See you next week!